Five years ago, Seth Sweet’s first appearance in the Maine Amateur Golf Championship ended in tears. He was 12, the youngest player to ever qualify for the tournament. He shot an 80 the first day, an 84 the second, and two days of playing golf against men caught up to Sweet as he turned in his card. A kid reached his exhaustion point, physically and mentally.

The tears didn’t last long. They were quickly replaced by the goal that was realized at Sunday River Golf Club on Thursday, when Sweet, now 17, won his first Maine Amateur title.

Sweet has all kinds of wins in all kinds of golf tournaments. He won the Class C state championship in the high school tournament the last two years. Sweet’s won state junior titles. In 2009 he won the New England junior title. Last summer, he played in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in Bremerton, Washington, missing the cut on a playoff hole.

This tournament, the Maine Am, was the one Sweet had his sights on. He’s been building to this for some time. Sweet could feel it, even as he toughed out the final day. Back-to-back scores of 70 on the tournament’s first two days gave Sweet a six-stroke cushion over J.J. Harris going into the final round. Sweet never relinquished the lead, but shooting a 79 made it close.

“I felt I had the game to keep playing like this. It was not great all the way around, it was a grind,” Sweet said.

It wasn’t the pressure that raised Sweet’s score Thursday. It was anticipation. Sensing his first Maine Amateur title was imminent, Sweet had the patience of a kid on Christmas Eve.

“You could definitely see it in my golf swing. I was thinking about it,” Sweet said. “But I guess I was able to hold on.”

Since his first Maine Amateur at Waterville Country Club in 2007, Sweet has steadily improved. In 2008 at Biddeford-Saco Country Club, Sweet was still the youngest player in the field. After shooting an 81 on the first day, he bounced back with a 73 on Day 2 to make the cut.

In 2009 at Martindale Country Club in Auburn, Sweet shot 229 over the three-day tournament, finishing 19 strokes behind winner Jesse Spiers. In 2010 at Kebo Valley on Mt. Desert Island, Sweet played with Ryan Gay and Jason Gall in the final group on the last day, and finished tied for fourth. Last year, Sweet finished fourth again.

To prepare for this year’s tournament, Sweet worked on his short game, and it paid off. On Thursday, on the third hole, he chipped from just off the green to within a foot of the pin, setting up an easy par putt. On the fourth hole, he sank a 15-foot putt for birdie.

“I hit a lot of chips. I knew I wasn’t going to hit 18 greens out here. I putted and chipped like a madman,” Sweet said.

This fall, Sweet will enroll at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. His win in the Maine Amateur is heralded on the Old Dominion athletic department web page. The Monarchs have already had success with one Madison native, head football coach Bobby Wilder, who led ODU to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs last season.

There’s no doubt Sweet already has new goals. He’s taken golf seriously for years. There are going to be plenty more tournaments.

You get the sense the Maine Amateur title is one of the bottom steps on a very high staircase Sweet is climbing. It took five years to get to that first landing. Now, you have a feeling Sweet is going to start running, two or three steps at a time.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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